Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Delanceyplace.com 04/03/07-Raising Money

In today's excerpt, France's King Philippe Auguste, who took the throne in 1180 at the age of fifteen, was one of the master builders of both the nation of France and the city of Paris:

"How did Philippe Auguste manage to raise money for all his vast urban projects in Paris, defensive and peaceful?. ... One of his main sources of income ... derived from the Jewish community of Paris.

"From Philippe Auguste to Philippe Petain, and beyond, treatment of the Jews in Paris, indeed in northern France as a whole, was never conspicuous for its generosity. But this was true of most of medieval Europe. There were the relatively good periods, and the very bad. To his shame, the reign of Philippe Auguste belonged categorically to the latter. In French Jewish lore, he became known as 'that wicked King.' Under Louis VII, the Jews had been relatively well treated, their synagogues protected, and they had prospered. By the end of Louis' long reign, their small community had come to own nearly half of all private property in the city, with large numbers of the citizenry in their debt. But before his father was even cold in the grave Philippe, still barely fifteen and probably acting under pressure from the establishment, in 1180 issued orders for the Jews under royal protection in Paris to be arrested in their synagogues, imprisoned and condemned to purchase their freedom through surrender of all their gold and silver and precious vestments. Though not in fact initiated as religious persecution, it was a cynically skillful ploy for getting on his side both the Church and the great mass of wealthy Parisian debtors. Above all it granted Philippe the immense sum of 31,500 livres, which he needed both for building the walls of Paris and Les Halles, and for equipping his army to defeat the Plantagenets. Two years later, he followed up with a decree expelling the Jews from France and confiscating the totality of their wealth. Debts were wiped out--except for a fifth which the royal coffers appropriated."

Alistair Horne, Seven Ages of Paris, Pan Books, 2003, pp. 39-40.


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